A Semester of Service: Immigration Issues

Students in Nancy Hiemstra‘s “Focus on Boston: Immigration and Public Policy” classes spent two months serving at local nonprofit organizations dedicated to immigration issues. The new class at Emerson looks at immigration and policy, and how these elements play out in everyday life. Hiemstra says the Boston focus is important for students to have, since most don’t have extensive experiences with these issues. In addition, the service learning component allows students to connect to what they’re learning to real-life situations. “I think it’s increased their understanding of how policy works,” she says.

Green Card Sign from Immigration Exhibit.

Students volunteered at a variety of immigration-oriented organizations in Boston. They participated in tasks important to the organization’s mission, from tutoring teenagers to teaching computer literacy skills. Hiemstra hopes her students develop a personal awareness of the issues and add to their own life experiences through participation in the project. She says this kind of engagement makes it more than simply reading about immigration issues. “[It’s] great to give them an avenue to make [a] connection to the Boston community,” she says, adding that most enjoy the experience and continue volunteering after the course ends.

This semester, students served with:

Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts (LVM)

Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts LogoLiteracy Volunteers of Massachusetts provides free, individualized tutoring in literacy and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) through its volunteers. Students helped individually or in pairs teaching computer literacy skills in addition to typing and English skills.


¿Oíste? The Latino Civic Education Initiative LogoOíste is focused on improving the political, social, and economic standings of Latinos and Latinas in Massachusetts through civic engagement, civic education, and leadership development, according to its website. Students who served here assisted with the organization’s website and voter registration. They also helped with Latinas por el Cambio, a program promoting civic engagement for women, empowering them through financial stability classes.

Catholic Charities Teen Center

Catholic Charities LogoCatholic Charities of Boston is one of the largest social services providers in Massachusetts aimed at building and fostering a just and compassionate society, according to its website. The Teen Center at St. Peter’sprovides a variety of educational and recreational activities that give youth in the Dorchester area support services and a place to socialize. Emerson students served as tutors and mentors to the youth, helping with homework and playing games, all while inspiring the teens to think about their futures.

Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)

MIRA LogoThe Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition(MIRA) is the largest organization in New England working to promote integration and rights for immigrants. It accomplishes these goals through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training, leadership development, and strategic communications with its member organizations, according to its website. Students produced a video about its citizenship clinic for the organization. The video aims to increase participation in MIRA’s Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative, which aims to help legal permanent residents complete citizenship applications.

International Institute of New England

International Institute of New England LogoThe International Institute of New England works to help immigrants and refugees fully immerse themselves in the political, social, and economic aspects of American life. The organizations aims to achieve that goal by providing support services such as English and job classes as well as housing assistance and cultural orientation, according to its site. Students helped with listening and speaking classes. They also provided journalism/media assistance, helping to teach interview techniques and etiquette through mock interviews.

Irish International Immigrant Center

Irish International Immigrant CenterThe Irish International Immigrant Center provides legal and social services, such as Learning Exchange programs and wellness and education programs, to immigrants in order to assist them in transitioning to American life. Students assisted with classes about law and citizenship, typing, and ESOL. They also produced articles for the organization’s newsletter about their volunteer experiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *